Bruce in kayak.

"We specialize in small group travel, which minimizes environmental impact, increases safety standards and allows for personalized, enriching and authentic experiences."

— Bruce Smith, founder and owner, Seascape Kayak Tours Inc.

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THE INTERN AND THE “ICEBERG”August 23rd, 2010

Hi! I’m Shana Wallace, I’m 17, and I live about 40 miles north of New York City. For a week in July, I interned for Seascape on Deer Island in the Bay of Fundy. I wrote this original blog entry on my last day at Seascape. Now, I’m back in New York in 12th grade, and I can think about my experience at Seascape with a grander perspective. I see how much hard work is put into this business and how much Bruce and Frank and Katinka and the rest of the guides really care about the people and this bay. This place is important, and if you read my guest blog below, hopefully you’ll understand why.

The island that Seascape is located on is a 20-minute ferry ride from mainland New Brunswick, which makes it right in the middle of the Bay of Fundy. Although I live over 500 miles and a ferry ride away, I absolutely fell in love with this part of the world. This specific body of water is a special place for me. In my mind, it really can do almost no wrong. I don’t mind the fog. Or the cold. Or the wind. All I honestly care about is just being here and realizing that I am in a truly amazing place.

This “sense of place” I am able to achieve only in the Bay happened to work completely in tandem (ha ha…kayak joke…oh my) with Bruce’s, and Seascape’s, mission. I was blown away by how much this mindset of being in the moment and APPRECIATING that moment can do to enlighten people’s minds about how they’re living and where they are. And I know this may sound too flowery, but I can’t stress it enough: this water is magical. It is teeming with life and information… and to see people’s eyes and minds light up while on a paddle is absolutely incredible and almost indescribable.

That simple fact is the reason that I can’t wait to bring my family up here in the future. Simply observing how glassy the water is on a calm day or seeing a harbor seal pop up right beside your kayak almost forces your mind to take a step back and appreciate what it is taking in. Even picking up garbage can be an experience here.

What? Picking up GARBAGE? Ew! Gross! Well, yes. Picking up garbage can be gross and I really cannot deny that. I also cannot deny that like many other bodies of water, the Bay of Fundy faces the trash issue. When people drive their boats out into the Bay, drink beer, and then throw that empty can into the water, it doesn’t end there. Animals can choke on the trash or get tangled up in it. Chemicals poisonous to the water can seep into the sand or infect krill and the effects never stop. Why does this STILL happen? I honestly don’t know. I don’t particularly understand why or how people feel that that is okay to do, but wondering about it or thinking bad thoughts about them certainly doesn’t help the issue. At my school, I’m one of the new presidents of the environmental club, so it would seem in my natural mindset to want to work on this issue.

During my first paddle of the week, Bruce noticed my interest in picking up the empty water bottles and pieces of containers on the water and thereby declared that I would be the “Garbage Queen” by the end of the week. And you know what? I think he may have been right. About halfway through the week, during a paddle, our small group came upon a HUGE piece of Styrofoam floating along. And when I say huge, I mean close to mini-iceberg size. And it was HEAVY. If you still don’t believe me, here’s a picture of the two people we went out with as well as myself and our friend the giant piece of Styrofoam.

Bruce and I managed to balance it on the center of our tandem kayak and save one unfortunate incident, (sorry Bruce!) we got it back without issue.

From all of this, I learned simply that this place is important. This water is special, and if you don’t visit it, it just might be ruined soon. It might be destroyed by us, humans, by all of that trash and uncaring people I just mentioned. Don’t waste your time. Just don’t. Don’t make any excuses. Just visit. Who knows? Maybe, hopefully, I just might be back here when you do.

Thanks, Seascape. Really. Peace, love and whales,

Shana

PHOTOS BY SHARON AVRUTICK, FRANK POSTMA AND BRUCE SMITH


Preserving the Three-Wattled Bellbird in MonteverdeApril 22nd, 2010

Bruce and I just returned from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a deep green magical forest with tall old-growth trees that seem to be from another place and time. As we hiked for six hours along lush trails through mist that evaporates as sunlight streams down from the canopy, we were mesmerized by an eerie yet lovely soundtrack of high pitched “eeenk” sounds followed by what can only be described as a “metallic bonk,” like the amplified plunk of an out-of-tune piano key.

MALE THREE-WATTLED BELLBIRD TAKING FLIGHT, Bruce Smith

Following the “eeenk; bonk” sounds from one opening in the thick tropical forest to another, Bruce finally spotted the enthusiastic vocalist, a male Three-Wattled Bellbird! He is a beautiful creature with a ghostly white head, neck and shoulders, and a chestnut-brown torso, perched on the very tip of a craggy branch, not too high up in the trees, mouth gaping open to project his territorial call for up to two miles! We were enthralled and enchanted by this new animal sighting. And we felt a connection.

A couple of nights before, we had visited La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge, where we heard a presentation by Debra Hamilton about the Three-Wattled Bellbird. Debra is a conservation biologist, a mom, a bird research specialist, owner and manager of a small bookstore and café, the director of the Costa Rican Conservation Foundation – and those are just a few of her titles. She has devoted her life to studying the rare and endangered bird species that make the mystical Monteverde Cloud Forest their home, and is heading up many projects to help save these hauntingly beautiful birds.

LA CALANDRIA PRIVATE RESERVE AND LODGE, MONTEVERDE

Debra, who has been working in the Monteverde area since 1992, explained that there are only a few Bellbirds still in existence in the very special humid forest habitats where their favorite food, the wild avocado, grows. This is because, sadly, much of the tropical forest containing the bird’s food supply has been cut down, in Costa Rica and in other Central American countries. What was once a large area of forest is now only in small fragmented pieces. Along with several other scientists, Debra has studied diversity of understory birds and the use of agricultural windbreaks as biological corridors for birds moving between forest fragments. She is currently involved in a long-term study of the Bellbird, including investigations of migratory patterns, population locations and sizes (which means taking a Bellbird census!), and the possible impact of climate change on Bellbird populations.

PART OF HABITAT REFORESTATION NURSERY AT LA CALANDRIA

Debra and her colleagues know that in order to save the Bellbird from extinction, its remaining habitat must be preserved and protected. So they have begun to focus much of their energy on reforestation projects. Seascape wants to help. We’d like to hear from anyone who would be interested in a voluntourism experience staying in Monteverde at La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge and visiting the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You could combine this trip with paddling on either coast of Costa Rica, or you could do it without a kayak component. You would join us in planting trees that will help expand and enrich habitat for the Bellbird so that its voice will always ring out over the cloud forest canopy.

Frances

Read more about the Bellbird and Debra Hamilton

Read more about La Calandria Private Reserve and Lodge


A Special GiftDecember 19th, 2009

The season in Costa Rica so far has been very busy: three multi-day experiences and a number of day trips with guests from Tambor Tropical. It is wonderful to be back in this warm, colorful Latin American country. Costa Rica is home. I have several days off prior to the arrival of the next group on December 26th.

IMG_0403ONE OF THE MULTI-DAY TRIPS SO FAR THIS SEASON IN COSTA RICA

Christmas is crazy in Costa Rica; families preparing special tamales for “La Navidad” and making sure regalos (gifts) are ready. It still seems slightly strange to see Christmas lights twinkling from palm trees and a Santa poking out from lush tropical vegetation.

kinkyA couple of days ago I received a very special early Christmas gift. Frances and I traveled to Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located in the nearby coastal community of Cabuya. The sanctuary cares for and tries to rehabilitate injured mammals, birds and reptiles. One of the animals at the center is a Kinkajou, a small nocturnal mammal which is also called a “night monkey.”

When we entered the animal’s enclosure in the late afternoon, Kinky was just starting to stir from a full day’s slumber. I slowly reached into its den and softly stroked its silky soft fur and Kinky opened her huge round eyes and peered out. The connection was immediate….trust….caring….love and recognition. Kinky poked her head out of her nest and yawned, exposing a long, narrow tongue, and proceeded to reach out to hold onto me with her little paws as she stretched to her full length. We looked at each other for quite some time, acknowledging a kindred presence. Then, with almost a smile and a nod, Kinky moved lazily back into her den for a little more rest before waking for the night.

Several days (and nights) later, I still find myself reflecting upon this encounter. The physical sense of touch is very powerful… It can often convey a feeling or message that words cannot.

I believe in the true spirit of Christmas; however, I find it very difficult to accept how commercialized Christmas has become. Too often we are more concerned about what Christmas dinner will be, how the house will look for guests, or finding the perfect gift than reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas.

It is important to touch people and animals and demonstrate love, kindness, acceptance and understanding. This is the true gift of Christmas.

DSC09823SNOW RECENTLY FELL ON SEASCAPE’S HEADQUARTERS IN CANADA

Wishing everyone a very simple, peaceful holiday season.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel

Bruce and Frances

You can read more about Kinky and Rainsong here.

Photos courtesy of Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary, Frank Postma and Bruce Smith.